Football history has taught us that a player’s absence usually sees a rise in said player’s perceived value. Much like living away from home, the thought of your mum’s cooking and the reality of the two are often disproportional. On the off chance that my mum decides to finally read an Arsenal related football blog for the first time ever, I assure you that my mum’s cooking is the best in the world.
Anyway, with Arsenal struggling to break down the 4-5-1 formation of Palace, it was clear that we lacked a smattering of creativeness to get anything out of the game. Before kick-off, I think most fans would have been happy with our line-up, with new man Sanchez starting wide, Santi on the left and the indomitable Aaron Ramsey starting in the #10 role. It looked to be the perfect blend of creativity, pace and power but as the game wore on and fingernails began disappearing among most of the Emirates crowd, it appeared that we would have to settle for a point.
Whilst we all now know that there was nothing to worry about as the Welsh Jesus came to the rescue again, we can count ourselves fortunate that a Tony Pulis side, and make no mistake, this was most definitely a team set up with the instructions of Pulis ringing in their ears, fell asleep twice during set pieces to gift us three points.
Leave aside the astounding performance of Chambers, the ineffective Sanogo, the Gibbs’ injury and all other talking points of the game, one thing stood out among all others, our lack of creativity and movement. After the game Ramsey explained to Sky Sports how Arteta, Wilshere and himself were discussing the lack of movement in front of them at the start of the second half, as passages of play broke down on our own halfway line with very little to aim at.
Firstly, I think it’s to the detriment that Ramsey was playing the number 10 role; Rambo excels at losing his man in the middle of the pitch with his boundless energy and breaking into the box to finish moves off. Playing in behind the striker, whilst positioning yourself closer to the box also brings you under the direct scrutiny of a defensive midfielder and both centre backs. His usual third person running was ineffective as he was expected to be the creative hub with Wilshere breaking of him rather than allowing others to be more involved in the creative build up.
Currently, Wilshere finds himself partnering Arteta in the midfield and whilst I am confident he has the ability to succeed there, he must surely be secondary to Ramsey when everyone else is fit and available. And that brings me on to my main qualm; on so many occasions last year we missed the direct pace of Walcott and the running of Ramsey when both were injured but on Saturday it was the subtlety of Özil that was in need.
Like a double agent, Özil infiltrates the oppositions defence by picking up insignificant positions and utilising them with his quickness of thought and speed of pass. He drifts between the lines and creates space for others to exploit. Cazorla may bring skill and an ambidextrousness that arouses the trouser area to his favoured position and Rosicky a sense of urgency, defensive discipline and directness but it is Özil who proves the most influential as he drifts around the field, away from the prying eyes of the opposition as we attempt to unlock stubborn defences.
Özil is criminally underrated for a player who allows the Arsenal to tick. He may not be the direct route to goal but his scenic route tends to get us there quicker when the motorway is jammed. And it is not only in our players in which he influences, his movement impinges on the shape of the opposition, gently swaying them from side to side with his pendulum like grace until a hole is found and punished by our onrushing midfielders or our forward options.
One would consider Özil’s influence similar to Giroud’s style of play; rather than being a goal machine, the big French man is designated the task of manipulating the movement of their defenders in order to bring our wide forwards into play; if Giroud happens to score, then it is a happy bonus.
So far I’m happy with the business Wenger has done, he has brought in players that were badly needed and surprised us with the acquisition of Chambers, however if we are to succeed, the inventiveness of Özil will prove a key weapon in our Arsenal in our assault on the League, especially when faced with a parked bus or two.
'Til next time,
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